Yes, I am writing this part of my Monday post early so that by the time you read it I will be someplace else and doing something other than writing. There, see how I did that? Present tense and future in a single sentence?

I ran two miles, only some of it uphill, on Friday morning. I earned my Kouign Amann pastry from the bakery. I do not, sadly, think they will hire me. The “Hiring” sign is still in the window and the back-of-the-shop manager I talked to was encouraging, but the two men I talked to the first time looked at me as if I were stale bread. I know that look.

This is not one of my new weavings but an image I found filed away. My December warp is greens and the one I just finished for January is blues and violets, some smokey and some near peacock-bright. February will be corals and copper reds with pale lavenders. Maybe. One warp a month—I’ll see where I am with my huge stash at the end of the year.

Age Discrimination

“The laws enforced by EEOC prohibit an employer from treating applicants and employees who are forty or older differently, or less favorably, because of age.”

Uh-huh. How do I prove discrimination and why should I have to? No one wants to have to work a place they are not wanted. Still.


• Without first understanding [present tense] the history of the situation, readers will fail [future] to appreciate implications for the future. 
• Once Minik lost [past] his family, he is [present] doomed. 
• With the help of local residents, Perry was able [past] to survive and establish a reputation as an explorer which he exploits [present, but could as easily have been "exploited" by my MLA habit is hard to break] for the remainder of his life. 
• Review what is already known [present—all right, it should be "is know already"] and then extrapolate what might be [okay, this one is messy because it is present tense but also conditional] true in the future. 

ASSIGNMENT: Write two or more nonfiction sentences that shift tense at least once—and for a reason. Then explain.


  1. I write [present tense] my post early so that when it went [still past] live I will be doing [future tense] something else.
  2. I planned [past] meals to use [present] what we stored [past] so that we will eat [future] at restaurants when we’re [present] in Portland with a clear conscience.


EXPLANATION: Again, I would have done better had I written sentences and then located a couple of them that mixed verb tense. Instead, I wrote them cold and badly. The better example is in the comments for this assignment. Scroll down and see what Karen did!

I wanted to use past, present, and future in both of my examples. I struggled way too much mostly because what I understand about grammar comes from only a few sources and does not include formal learning:

  1. Reading voraciously as a child right up till now. (I eventually realized I overuse commas because I read too many nineteenth century novels before I was fifteen.)
  2. Two years of high school Latin. (I should not have quit after the second year but I’m proud to say that this is something I have (had?) in common with Ursula K. Le Guin. We both quit after spending an entire year with Caesar’s Gallic Wars, and we both eventually regretted missing Ovid in year Three. She took the language up again, but while I have forgotten nearly all I knew, I recall the prefixes and suffixes. I can still decline a couple of verbs (and nouns!). It’s also worth noting that many grammarians argue that no one understands grammar in their own language until they learn a foreign language which forces them to pay attention. I should have learned more Latin.]
  3. Teaching high school students MLA form. [I looked things up in order to explain them. As an example, I learned what a comma splice is and why it should be avoided and that most people who do know what comma splices are freak out about them unnecessarily.]
  4. And the big one: ear. Both my parents always used near-perfect grammar and formal register—consistently—so I learned by hearing. Even now I rely overmuch on what “sounds right” to my ear. “Formal register” is how we speak when how we are perceived matters most. In class. Explaining to a judge why we should not be fined. “Informal register” has a smaller, simpler vocabulary and often incorporates slang, grammatical whoopsies, and verbal shorthand. It’s how we talk casually to friends. What would you like to do? versus Whaddaya wanna do? [I used to tell my students that if they heard formal register from parents they were at a tremendous advantage over peers who had to learn that in school. It’s very close to an entirely different language. And then if they were ESL students, they were doing it all double.]

Grammar is not my strong suit—not so bad as my typing, but still not remotely a strength. I generally look up lay/lie even now, just to be certain I have it right. On the other hand, I am never confused by then/than or there/their/they’re or access and excess. I understand parts of speech, but my students often did not. I have worked with writers who do not care at all about such details, not even when they ask me to mark up their fiction and I do. They just do not bother to repair their errors or learn rules.

Learn how your language works. If you want to be a good writer, you need to understand your tools.

As I write both of my copies of Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin are eighty miles away. Le Guin she charts out and explains verb tense better than I can. I scared myself trying to find a similar chart on the internet. Seriously, I am told there are twelve tenses. Twelve? Ee-gads. And they each have a name.

So I am rewriting my exercise

  1. I applied [past] for work locally because I like [present] working and because I will need [future] some income later this year.
  2. The men I talked to did not offer [all past] any encouragement, but after talking [past, gerund] to the other manager I went [past] online and applied [past] because that might help prove [oh, dear, a “might” construction again] I am [present] serious.

Number 1 works fine and makes perfect sense, I think. Number 2 gets messy and confusing for the reader. In fact, it’s confusing for me too. The bakery opens at 6:30 and I would think that might be a challenging hour for people seeking to work the counter. Since I know they hired a kid who did not know how to make coffee, my lack of experience making coffee drinks is unlikely to be the reason I have not heard back. I did say I’d work any day and any hours, and my readers know I am awake most mornings well before 6am. As I type this the time is 7:21am and I have been online for three hours already.


Gary saw this coming. No one is going to hire a woman of my age, not even one who can smile under her mask for hours and still runs miles and may be running (not maybe, may be*) while you read this.

“Maybe” is an adverb and I want the verb “be.” “May” in “may be” is an adverb like “might,” but “be” is the verb I wanted in that sentence. Yes, as you read imagine me walking three miles and running a slow mile on flat sand—so much nicer on my feet than concrete sidewalks in Portland.

However, in Portland I saw another old guy, not much taller than I am, also out running before 7am but on the blacktop street. We grinned and waved at one another as we passed in opposite directions.

Gary was looking at stars and then the dawn brought fog. Visibility: 1 block. The Beth Israel dome should be right in the center of the frame.

15 thoughts on “#3 DEBRIEF

  1. are we there yet?
    where is there?
    where it isn’t
    this might be that place
    or maybe not
    but at least we know where we are not
    thank you, Antonio Machado

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Have you thought about working at a library or bookstore? I am a poor writer. I am supposed to be writing outreach articles on native bees so I study how others are doing it and try to create a similar style.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It took me a couple of years, after leaving teaching, to realize that older women are not on the list of those to hire. You are very valued as a volunteer, but no one wants to put you on the payroll.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think those bakery folk are very blinkered, for whatever reason. I spent approximately 20% of my career recruiting and interviewing for staff and I would ALWAYS shortlist suitably qualified older people. They are simply more reliable, trustworthy and have greater experience (on the whole). I would also always shortlist anyone who had ever worked at McDonalds or in a pub because they already know how to deal with grotty customers…
    I hope you find something you will enjoy soon (because that bit is important too).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I keep reading the Friday assigments, then find I can’t get into the swing of it yet….maybe it feels rather much like school right now…Will I do it? Don’t know, my apologies, since I had mentioned I liked learning from you how to better write. I enjoy reading what you offer, then various responses. Meanwhile, I always enjoy your posts.
    Not hiring? Too bad for them. Hoping you find what you want and can grab hold. Or you might write even morem that’s a thought. You have plenty of interests, that is for certain.
    I enjoy seeing the swatches of your weavings, too. Luscious colors and texture.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am glad you are enjoying reading about the exercises even if they do not appeal to you. Yes, school, and not nearly as much fun as the full blown essay assignments. They are only intended to reinforce skills most of us have but are not giving enough attention to control.

      In the mean time, I am already putting on the “February” warp—a sparkling mix or copper reds and golds. They seem Scandinavian colors to me. I really do mean to put up photos of the pairs from December and January! Next week, maybe?

      Liked by 1 person

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